Judging from the comments made by tire industry executives interviewed for the Mid-Year Tire Report section of this issue of Tire Business, the market for selling and servicing replacement passenger and light truck tires will be tough for the remainder of the year.
And just how tough will it be?
Randy Groh of U.S. AutoForce sees a flat replacement market. Scott Clark of Michelin North America Inc. is a bit more positive, predicting slight growth for the remainder of the year.
However, Andrew Hoit, Fal-ken Tire Corp. vice president of marketing, took umbrage with the popular phrase cautious optimism.
While many people employ this phrase as a way of giving hopesuch as company executives who don't want to paint a negative picture for shareholdersMr. Hoit said if people were being totally honest, I don't know how anyone could be optimistic right now.
Suffice it to say, the near-term outlook for the replacement consumer tire business does not portend much improvement.
But in every market there are bright spots and opportunities, and tire dealers need to look to those areas to maintain sales, look for growthand in true entrepreneurial spirit, make things happen.
Paul Sullivan, vice president of marketing at Sullivan Tire & Auto Service, said his company is working on improving its customer service and boosting its online presence through a greater focus on mobile-device and tablet traffic on its website.
U.S. AutoForce has broadened its product offerings, especially in farm, commercial and specialty tires, to help buoy sales.
On the bright side, there is a growing demand for new vehicles. Instead of replacing tires, many consumers are feeling either compelled or confident enough to trade in their aging vehicles for new ones, which is boosting OE tire sales.
But these trends, too, will change over time, the economy will continue to get better and, in a few yearswhen all of these new vehicles need their first tire replacementssales will jump.
Maybe there is reason for optimism after all.